Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Wild Life

"Well, that's a strange-looking turkey," I thought as I sat milking and looking up at the girls in the corner of the pen.  All I could see at the moment was the head moving along behind the goats.  Strolling along the drive by the fence line was a great blue heron, nonchalant as you please.  This isn't the first I've seen here, but it's always a surprise.  Previously it's been in very early morning down in the pasture, and this bird was out for a walk well after sunrise and right by the herd.  As I watched, the heron lifted its wings and took off in flight.  Talk about big!

All the girls seemed happy to be back in their routine yesterday, forgiving me for their one-day abandonment.  My advice to anyone thinking about getting goats, especially dairy goats, is to be ready for total commitment.

Camille called, heartsick because one of her young cats had gone missing.  The recent chicken raids convince her that the coyotes struck again.  A neighbor of hers, new to the area, just lost a small daschund.  I had not planned for Ralph and Celeste to be strictly indoor cats, but I couldn't bear to lose either one of them as I did Frank.  Neither seems anxious to go outside, so I will continue to clean the litter box and hope for a long life together.  The pack of coyotes seems to have grown, and they're certainly bolder than they have been in the past.  Most of these kills have been in broad daylight.  Bessie is ten years old now and rarely leaves my side.  We go outdoors and come back in together, and she never leaves the property.  While I love to see free-range chickens in the yard, it's just as well the little girls are penned now.

Living here is not without drama and mystery.  Moments of comedy are followed by tragedy.  It is truly the wild life.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Cure

An afternoon spent going in circles (on the mower) is the perfect antidote for a morning spent in the city.  It calms the mind and soothes the soul.  Now the front and side yards look just as good as the west field.  The back and back side yards were the last done before and are still neat and tidy.  It's not surprising that a good deal of what had been green is going brown, but brown isn't nearly as pretty.

The pomegranate plant is more a bush than a tree.  It seems to be making up for years of inactivity by throwing out dozens of blossoms and is busy setting fruit.  The plant itself is lush and green.  Camille showed me her pomegranate twig, planted two years ago.  She was thinking it might be dead or dying.  I told her not to give up hope.  They seem to be slow starters.

Asking someone to tend the goats is asking a huge favor.  I'd explained the system to Cam and she's done it before, but one never knows what goats will do.  With only me here, the girls are not well socialized and are easily spooked by the presence of strangers.  Given the change in sleeping arrangements, Cam was able to get Inga and Sheila in and milked without too much trouble.  They both stood and shook while Cam did the deed.  Tessie needed time and coaxing to come in, and Cindy was a real butt-head (literally) as Camille was leaving.  "You are not our Mom and you do not belong here.  Get out now!"  Camille had to swing a rope around to keep the self-appointed herd guardian away so she could get up the hill.

Number Two Son was just finishing taking down a couple of big limbs from the oak over the woodpile when I returned from the valley.  They were so heavy, they were threatening to split the trunk.  His girlfriend was acting as unpaid helper, throwing the leafy stuff over into the pen and making the goats very, very happy.  By next winter, the big pile of rounds will be seasoned and ready to split for firewood.  That will make me very, very happy.

The activities of the afternoon cured the "trauma" of the morning, so it was a good day after all.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

After-Dark Adventures

Another mouth to feed.  Look at the size of this toad!

The story will have to wait...on a dead run here now.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig.  Whew!  It's hard to describe how much I dislike "going to town" after living in the foothills alone for so many years.  Traffic makes me no never mind; it's all those people!  I was urged to snap a "selfie," as it was the first time in 1-2 years I've worn a dress.  I had full intentions of doing so for publication, but I was so glad to get home that I stripped off the dress, etc., and jumped back into my bibbies even before giving Bessie Anne her "Mom's home" treat.  I had even put on lipstick(!), so the selfie would have been a doozie!  Maybe next time, but don't hold your breath.

Now, about the toad.  Yesterday while Tree Guy and Sons were working on the tree trunk, I was milking goats.  As I came up the path, TG came running.  "Where's your rifle?!"  He explained while we made our way to the house that, while I was in the barn, he'd seen the largest coyote he'd ever seen sitting on the drive just watching the girls in the pen.  He'd scared it down to the front pasture, where it then nonchalantly wandered down into my woods.  Okay, alrightie.  Bess and I were on high alert the rest of the day.  I mowed a couple of yards in the afternoon, always keeping an eye out for the predator.

At bedtime, putting the girls to bed was an ordeal.  They knew something with teeth was afoot.  Nobody wanted to go where they should be and Cindy was more reluctant than the rest.  She resisted coaxing, threats, and abandonment.  I left her out in the pen in the dark.  A long time later, hearing the beastie boys singing, I went out with lighted hat to try again.  In the barn, Toad hopped along right in our (potential) path.  Huge, this boy was.  Best to move him out of the way before I or Cindy (if she would come in) squooshed him flat.  Subterfuge and a rope finally got Cindy into her stall for the night.

Gosh, I'm glad to be home.  I'll leave the after-dark adventures to others.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Well Baby

Bessie Anne had her annual well-baby checkup and vaccinations yesterday.  Every visit to the vet starts by being weighed.  The scale is right there in the waiting room and she finds it embarrassing to have that large digital display announce her dietary sins in public.  Reluctant to get on the stand, she turns and says, "You do realize I've got big bones."  I, myself, have always hated doctor scales.  I cannot decide whether to take a deep breath and float or empty my lungs because air is heavy.  It didn't help when the nice lady announced, "Well, you're certainly heavier than you look."  (How's that for a backhanded compliment?)  Discussing this with her later, I assured Bess that next year I will give her a puppy cut to lessen the load before the examination.  Stephanie, the tech, was socially astute and introduced herself to Bessie before taking her temperature, which Bess hates worse than getting shots.  Dr. Ric has cared for Bessie Anne from the very first, has seen her through three surgeries, and I can say without fear of contradiction that she holds a special place in his heart.  I've never seen him come out into the waiting room to greet any other animal but Bess.  My girl is ten years old now and is developing cataracts, but otherwise she is in good health.  I got an estimate on having her teeth cleaned, about the same cost as a used car.  I fear she'll have to make do with milk bones.  Speaking of milk bones, Dr. Ric keeps a cookie jar full and gave one to Bessie, which she took politely and promptly put down on the floor.  He was disappointed, and I explained that she would like two to go, please.  Just as with treats from the feed store, she will only eat them after we get home, but she does expect two.  Laughing, he handed me another "for the road."  We're good to go for another year.

I've an early appointment down in the valley tomorrow and must leave shortly after daybreak.  Camille is going to come to milk and tend the goats; I'll take care of the chickens.  Given time constraints, I may not get an entry written and I'm asking in advance for indulgence.  (Disregard if I do scribble a few lines.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Little Squirrely

My day began and ended with squirrels, with a few nice nuts in between.  Grey squirrels pretty much keep themselves to themselves, but this bold dude was waiting on the bird feeder for breakfast.  He did move up to the fork of the tree when I approached, but then began to scold, "Chuck, Chuck, Chuck!"  (Grey squirrels are under the impression that everyone is named Chuck.)  Being properly chastised, I put down the bird seed and stepped away.

There was a good turnout of Freed Spirit bikers and their ladies for lunch at Bones.  Dave's lady, Sandra, drove up in her car as she had to go to work later.  Surrounded by all those muscles and since they were "in the neighborhood" (give or take 10-15 miles), I asked the boys if they would swing by the house and move the entertainment center downstairs and put the old, humongous TV on a different stand for me.  I'm shameless; how could they refuse the Club Momma?  (I had plotted this in advance and moved a lot of stuff out of the center before I left the house, hoping they'd agree.)  Under Dave's direction, those guys stripped the center and had it out the door, down the hill, and into the shop in no time flat and had the television hooked up again on a spare coffee table (I've got three, doesn't everyone?).  I'm no dummy; I had cold beer waiting.  This was my first opportunity to meet the ladies and they were a grand group.  The house was wall-to-wall leather and Bessie Anne was in seventh heaven, surrounded by men (she's that sort of girl).  Ready to continue their ride, they all formed a line for goodbye hugs and kisses (it still makes me smile) before rumbling down the drive, taking my sincere thanks with them.  They're "a lovely bunch of coconuts."

It had been an eventful day.  Just before putting the kids to bed, Bess and I went walkabout on the deck.  Spit!  What lettuce had survived the prior attack by the ground squirrel had grown up nearly an inch and I'd been able to identify all three varieties.  Don't you know that booger had returned and eaten every single sprout?!  Not one leaf remained.  I don't think it's worth replanting, at least not on the deck.  I don't mind feeding the wildlife, but I prefer to choose what and where.  So much for what I want.

Regardless, it was a good day.

Monday, May 26, 2014


"I'm sorry to wake you, Mom, but I really, really, really have to go outside now."  And so it was that I got up with Bessie Anne at 3:30 this morning, why I then slept in way past my usual hour, and why I'm still muzzy.  (Bessie Anne is sleeping peacefully at my feet.  Of course she is.)

Yesterday was really hot and nothing much got done (again).  The Asian lilies are beginning to open up.  They are in pots all along the deck, but, like a slow sunrise, they start at one end and work their way to the other.

A good deal of time was spent online, looking for a television to go with the new receivers.  Having made up my mind to get the one at a local store, I called before making the trip back to town and was discouraged to find that it was not in stock nor in the warehouse.  Arrgh.  I conferred with my electronics consultant, Craig, and got input from his associate, Deb.  Bless their hearts, they went to a store nearby and picked up one we selected.  I could get used to having these personal shoppers, given that there are few who hate shopping more than I.  They have custody of the new equipment and will bring it up next weekend.  No, this was not a ploy of mine just to see them again (but that sure is an added bonus for me!).

Now I'm in a quandary.  Not only do I not like to go shopping, I don't like to move furniture.  I've often said that a person could go blind in my house and never stub their toe as once a piece is put in place, it's there for the duration.  Steve and I drove each other nuts.  I am such a stick-in-the-mud and he would rearrange not just a piece of furniture, but entire rooms in our old house.  The dining room became an office, the dining room moved into the living room, a bedroom became a library, and he moved a fence in the backyard three times.  The new television will not fit in the entertainment center, therefore the center must go.  I must find homes for existing equipment and the center itself.  Arrgh.

The old red hen, as Ginger in "Chicken Run" would say, went "on holiday."  I'm glad she did not linger longer.

I'm meeting Dave and my boys (I am the official Club Momma, after all) from Freed Spirits for lunch today.  It will be a mini-version of Rolling Thunder.

Yawn.  I wonder if there'll be time for a nap before then.  Yawn.  Darn that Bessie Anne.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

House Of Blue Lights

Farview glows like an alien spaceship at night.  All electrical appliances these days seem to come with blue lights that stay on even when the object is turned off.  I suppose this shows they are ready for takeoff at a moment's notice.  What with the night lights I recently put in the hallway and several rooms, the computer modem (five! blue lights), and the two new TV receivers, unless the power goes out, I'll never be in the dark again.  I'm grateful that the manufacturers chose blue and not red.  In the old days, a red light on a house indicated ladies of ill repute in residence.  My reputation may be shot as it is, but at least I'm not advertising.

The new receivers came with new remote controls.  Thien did not leave a manual for said remotes.  There are several unidentified bars and buttons that I am afraid to push for fear of destruction (me, the remote, the television).  I asked about four bars in different colors.  "Oh, don't worry about those.  Just don't push."  Now that's scary.  What if they are a signal to the mother ship?

Joel put the finishing touch to the refurbishing done by the Kids.  To paraphrase an insurance slogan, "Like a good neighbor, Joel is there."  He has his own large vineyard to tend, but took the time and gasoline to come over and disk the big south pasture.  All weeds are gone!  "Thank you" just never seems enough.

Yesterday was pretty much a lost cause for getting anything done around here.  Those appointment "windows" leave a person hanging.  Camille stopped by for a minute.  The score changed when the coyotes nabbed Spot, her favorite chicken.

If I ever go missing, check Alpha Centauri.  I might have pushed the blue bar.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


My television has been dying a slow death for a long while now.  I'm pretty sure we bought it before moving here, which would make it over seventeen years (I think that's about 119 in dog years).  I went on a fact-finding mission yesterday; wanted to check out a possible replacement before the old TV died.  That may seem heartless, but it's best to be prepared for the worst.  I asked the nice man what I could get that would be the biggest bang for my buck.  I may go back and get that 50" monster.  The thing is, a new TV will require an upgrade for the satellite receivers.  Up here, there is no such thing as cable and no antennas (shows how long it's been since I've bought a television; do they still make antennas?).  Another nice man will come to change them out today so I'll be ready when the time comes.  That meant I stayed up way past my bedtime trying to watch stuff I'd DVRd before the boxes go bye-bye.  It also means that I must dust this morning lest I be thought a lazy lout.

Speaking of upgrades, the hobbits had broken their waterer and I picked up a new style for them as long as I was in town.  All prior waters have had opaque water tanks.  The new one is clear, with a day-glo green base (like chickens care about that).  The goofy hobbits, having drunk all the water in the interim bowl, were thirsty, but all of them pecked at the water they could see in the new tank instead of lowering their heads to the water in the base.  Maybe the day-glo green turned them off.  It's not like you can explain anything to a chicken.  They may have thought it was a form of water torture, a tease for the dehydrated.  Finally, the sharpest pencil in the box dipped her beak in the bowl.  It wasn't long before they were all slurping to their hearts' content.  They accepted the upgrade.

Friday, May 23, 2014


It's hard to know how to dress in the mornings now.  (I know how to dress myself, I just don't know what to wear.)  Cool enough for a jacket on the way to the barn, it's way too hot on the walk back.  Too hot to sit in the sun on the deck later, but chilly working in the lavender bed in the shade with the breeze.  I often wonder what Bessie thinks about all the clothes changes during the day.  "She puts on stuff and then takes it off, and then puts it back on again.  She takes off everything at night and then puts more stuff on.  Why does she do that?"  I imagine she thinks the same sort of thoughts about my weeding.  "She pulls stuff out of the ground and then puts more stuff in.  Why?"  She and I walked out to the garden.  I hadn't been out there since I put the seed potatoes and onion sets in the barrels.  It was pointless because the hose had sprung a massive leak and I needed to replace the fitting.  That accomplished, I went to water the veggies and discovered that some of the onion sets were sprouting up already.  They seem to thrive on neglect.  Nothing from the potatoes yet; guess they're keeping their eyes closed.  (That's a farm joke.)  Nothing will spur me on like guilt, and I saw that Deb had cleared another big barrel in addition to weed-eating the entire garden area.  I'd better get something planted or I won't be able to live with myself.

Chickens are pitiless.  The flock had gathered around one of the old hens, pecking her mercilessly.  She's on her way out, but she doesn't need to go like that.  I moved her to a place of safety.  Later in the evening, she had rallied and came out for the nighttime snack.  Even the pullets had turned on one of their own recently.  The peckee evidently made peace with the others and has healed.  The hobbits will definitely need their wings clipped before moving into the big pen.  They flutter and fly all over Hobbitville now.  I'm waiting until they get big enough so they're not hawk bait before moving them over.  The big pen seems to be secure otherwise.  Camille has called almost daily with the score:  right now it is Coyotes 2, Chickens 2 (two escaped from the jaws of death).  She's had free-range chickens for several years on her property without incident, but lately she's seen the coyotes take off with two big buff Orpingtons.  The donkeys, Shadow and Cricket, were hot after the marauders (who knew?), and Honey joined in the chase, but they were unable to stop the theft.  It's the time of year when the coyotes are denned up with pups and the moms have mouths to feed, making them brazen.  It's something we all live with here.  The one consolation is knowing the hens are not being killed wantonly.

Looks like a shirtsleeve - no jacket day today.  But I could be wrong.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


This is a case of blatant self-aggrandizement, but I'm pretty excited.  It's been over a year since I've heard from Christopher Wienberg, the young gentleman who is writing his Master's Thesis on prolific bloggers.  Christopher and a film crew from Psychic Bunny came to Farview to interview me regarding this blog on Mother's Day, 2013, in the midst of our family celebration.  Not hearing anything, I'd pretty much put it out of my mind so it was a nice surprise to find Christopher's email yesterday.  Running late, I dashed off a quick response without checking the link he provided.  It turns out that Jesse and his crew put together a short documentary film titled "Friends You Haven't Met Yet" that has been chosen to premiere at Dances With Films at the Chinese 6 Theaters in Hollywood on June 3rd.  It wasn't until last night that I Googled and clicked links and found out my interview did not end up on the cutting room floor.  Wouldn't it be beyond fun to walk the Red Carpet in bibbies and eau de goat?  Wouldn't I just love to be there?

Christopher is still in the throes of writing, stymied by a skew in statistics regarding age demographics.  It seems that most "megabloggers" tend toward activism in politics and the economy and are younger.  Christopher's interest lies with those of us who write about daily life as we find it.

I wish Christopher well in his endeavor, and applaud Jesse and his crew from Psychic Bunny for being selected for inclusion in the film competition.  Ain't it a hoot?!

As for my day yesterday, I pulled weeds.  Thunderstorms rolled over the mountains in the afternoon and we got a short dose of rain after dark.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

It's A Cat and Dog World

"A bird cat in the hand is worth two in the bush."  Bessie Anne had preempted my spot in my chair, relegating me to perch on the very front edge.  Celeste asked nicely to sit in my lap.  I told her there wasn't much lap there at the moment, but she said she'd make do.  Her head hung over so I put out my hand and she promptly went to sleep.  And there I sat, master of all I survey.

Dark clouds overhead and it seemed silly to be watering deck plants in the morning, but Nature has made empty promises before and those plants needed a drink now.  It was Ladies Day at Farview and I wouldn't have time to water anything later.  Arden, Camille, and Debbie K. came for a potluck lunch to celebrate Debbie's birthday.  (We never discuss numbers.)  I don't usually do potlucks, but it turned out so well we decided we'd do it again soon.  A quarter of the expense and work, and a lot of good talk and good food.  Celeste did her disappearing trick as soon as the first guest arrived; Arden has never even seen her.  Ralph, on the other hand, is quite the party animal and divided his attention to the ladies equally.  He was particularly interested in Honey.  Honey lives with cats of her own so pretty much ignored him.  Ralph was having none of that.  Starting at some distance, he would lie down full length on his side, and then inch closer by pulling himself forward with front paws until cat and dog were nearly nose to nose.  While his intentions were totally transparent, he thought he was being quite subtle.  Cats are just funny.  In the dining room, Bess always finds feet to lay her head on and nap.  We at the table sat and talked for hours; a really lovely afternoon.

Nature, wanting to have the last word, held off the rain until it was time to put the kids to bed.  Then it poured.  Of course it did.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Day Off

After feeding and watering three coops of chickens (the hobbits are still in their little pen), milking goats, cleaning stalls, scouring buckets, and washing eggs for Earle, I decided to take the day off.  To be honest, the decision was made for me by aching muscles and strained joints.  Poor Deb, poor Craig; they must be hurting even more than I.  The weather had done a change-about, cool enough for a jacket all day.  Bessie and I went out to sit in the sun when it appeared, and did several walkabouts just to look at what is now a park-like setting.  Thinking I could not possibly bend over to pull another weed, I couldn't stand seeing a few stragglers over at the end of the herb garden.  Obsession overcame good sense and there I was again, weeding.  I closed my eyes to the lavender bed; a person has to have limits.  No blog fodder yesterday; it was my day off.

Monday, May 19, 2014

It's About Time

In what now seems another life, I worked two jobs for ten years.  Some while after moving to Fair Play, I quit one; the longer commute was a killer.  Used to rushing through everything to get to the next job, I was hurriedly pruning roses when the thought struck me that I could slow down.  Pruning roses was the only job I had to do that day.  Tootling around on the little tractor yesterday in perfect weather, I thought how lucky I was to have time.  Mowing the yards is not something that can be rushed, but it was the only thing I had to do yesterday and so could enjoy the task without the pressure of more work waiting.

Time is so valuable, it is almost tangible.  It can be given, stolen, wasted.  Time can be invested or frittered away.  It cannot be hoarded or stored and it cannot be retrieved once gone.  I try very hard to enjoy the now in every day.  That was easy to do as I went in circles on a warm day with a cooling breeze.  Finished with the west field, I moved on to the side yard and then the back yard and the south side yard.  Deb and Craig were my inspiration and I didn't want my part looking shabby next to their spiffed-up areas.  I did appreciate break time in between yards; Fu Manchu can be a gut buster.

As the day wore on, I thought that mowing the drive and the frontage would be the last chore before sundown.  There were probably two inches of gas in the tank as I headed down the driveway when the engine quit.  Just quit.  Boogers.  I hiked back up to the barn for a gas can, filled the tank, and was off again.  Evidently Fu will only work on a full belly.  Coming back up for the last pass, I got too close to the drainage ditch dug by Tree Guy and dropped a front wheel, causing the back drive wheel to just spin.  Double boogers.  Wheel wedged and the tractor too heavy to lift, I tried this and that to no avail.  I was just plain stuck. With modern technology, who bothers to memorize phone numbers anymore?  That assumes all necessary numbers are stored in your phone(s).  Camille's number was not in my cell; however, unbelievable as it sounds, I remembered hers.  "Do you have time to help me out of a pickle?"  Very shortly, she drove up on her quad, Honey riding shotgun, and quickly had the tractor pulled out of the ditch.  Up at the house (whatever weeds were left can just live there), Camille asked a question only a country person would ask.  "May I borrow six cups of sugar?"  She'd run low on supplies and needed to feed her hummers.  Small price to pay for her help.

It was time to quit for the day.  The yards look great!

Sunday, May 18, 2014


I'll bet I went outside four or five times just to look around after Deb and Craig left yesterday.  I'd become used to the raggle-taggle look of overgrown weeds and accumulated this and that.  When overwhelmed with so much to do, I become stunned into inertia, doing what I can and ignoring the rest.  Deb and Craig came up early and worked like a well-oiled team for hours, both running weed-eaters and clearing thigh-high weeds around pens and down the slopes.  As I'd had no reason to go there, underneath the deck had not been touched for years.  Berry vines and vetch had taken over.  After tending to barn chores, my only contribution to the work force was to - you guessed it - pull weeds in those areas where only hands will do.  About the time we were all ready to fall over, I left to get pizza and the Kids got cleaned up so we could watch The Preakness.  The three of us were on our feet, yelling as California Chrome thundered away from the competition, hoping for a "local boy" to make good.  As I told Sandra later, California Chrome is the new gold!  I think we're going to get a party going to watch The Belmont, hoping to see this copper-penny horse take the Triple Crown.

Leaving, Deb and Craig said, "I love you," and my response was, "I believe you.  No one could or would work as hard as you did for money."  My joints were screaming and I can only imagine how tired the Kids must have been.  In the late afternoon, Bessie and I walked out on the deck, around the pens, down the slopes, marveling at how wonderful the place looks.  The transformation is inspiring.  My Kids are inspiring.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

After the Ball

Another lunch date, this one with Arden.  This social whirl has me spinning.  I laugh to myself when I get home from one of these outings and get back to reality.  Like Cinderella after the ball, off come the sparkly shirt and clean jeans and back on go the work shirt and bibbies.  Spiffy doesn't do down in the barn.

My phone camera doesn't do justice to the spill of California poppies flowing down this yard on Perry Creek nor the hillside covered with lupine just around the curve.  Both scenes are breathtaking and so unexpected. 
When we moved here, my own south pasture was also a sea of purple lupine in the spring, but years of plowing and mowing have all but eliminated those wildflowers here.  It's a sad but necessary trade-off for fire safety.

I made a tactical error yesterday.  Following my own advice, I did do a lot of weeding in the lavender bed early in the morning before barn chores.  It was pleasant, but I paid the price with hands that cramped a short while later while milking.  What was I thinking?  Those two tasks need a rest period in between.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Mother Would Be Proud

I sure don't remember this peony looking like this when I received the plant last year.  It most certainly does not look anything like the flowers on the plants I was given this year.  Where are the multitudes of ruffled petals?  I'm just so glad it came up again and bloomed, single or double.  If the deer had not eaten the one bud off the other returning plant, it would have been interesting to see what that flower might have been.

I was channeling my mother yesterday as I worked in the lavender bed.  If I have one mental picture of her, it is of her bent at the waist, forearm resting on thigh, pulling weeds.  She was a weed-pulling fool.  I learned early on not to be embarrassed because she would pull weeds in the yards of strangers while we were on a walk, and weeds in the parking lot at the store.  See a weed, pull it.  It was as simple as that.  I don't know whether she'd be happy as a clam or a raving maniac at the sight of all the weeds here.  A nice breeze came up in the afternoon so Bessie and I went out to do a little yard work.  Turkeys walked past just a few feet away and a nosy squirrel whose burrow is under the burn pile came to the edge of the yard to see what we were up to.  It was as if the squirrel and I were on a teeter-totter.  I'd stand up, he'd squat down.  I'd bend over, he'd stand up.  (I'm easily amused.)  The line of demarcation is very clear; I stopped pulling weeds exactly where the shade ended.  I guess I'll have to go out early in the morning to get the section that is in the sun in the afternoon.  Even Mother would not be pulling weeds in that blazing heat.  Well....

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Barn Roombas

I watch milk flow into the bucket.  I watch the mice pick the choicest pieces of grain and slurp their breakfast drink.  I watch the squirrels push mice out of the way.  I watch the clouds drift overhead and the goats either eat alfalfa peaceably or headbutt up at the corner, and the turkeys march along the drive.  Mainly, I watch the cadre of black beetle-like bugs in the barn.  Little armor-plated R2D2s, these insects move slowly and methodically like robots as they cruise around the edges of the room and up and down the walls.  They go in and out of mice burrows and squirrel holes.  Once in awhile I'll see them hauling a piece of something or other, but I truly have no idea of their purpose.  They're very busy, always on the move, but I don't know why.  If I could organize and train them to pick up just one pellet of goat poo each and take it out to the dung pile, my workday would be so much easier.

I did, in fact, get the front yard mowed before barn chores yesterday.  It didn't take long for the morning to heat up, and the girls and I were all happy to get out of the barn as soon as possible.  I received calls, cards, and texts from those near and dear to me, some of whom live far, far away, and I was made to feel very, very special.  Spiffed up (clean jeans), I went with Camille to do a spot of shopping before being treated to dinner at a Mexican restaurant.  I enjoyed the meal and the company very much, and was made to feel very, very silly wearing a huge sombrero while all the waiters sang a birthday song.  Ole!

It was a very, very good day.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Throw back the comforter.  Throw back the blanket.  Keep the sheet, but stick your feet out from under.  Heat arrived with a bang yesterday.  This quick-change weather gives no time to acclimate.  I went down to Camille's in the afternoon; she had bunch onions to share.  We sat on her patio to talk and Honey took several dips in the swimming pool, coming back to lie down dripping wet; it was that warm.  It is supposed to drop at least ten degrees by Saturday and I sure hope so.  Deb and Craig are coming back (gluttons for punishment) to work on the yards some more.  We joked that I probably won't see them again until it cools off in October.  Unfortunately, that's not a joke.  I don't blame anyone for not visiting here during summer.

My sister Pat and I shared our birthdays, born on the same date sixteen years apart with no siblings in between.  It was a race to see which of us would call the other first to sing "Happy Birthday."  Pat was not a morning person so I usually won.  This is the first year without her and it seems rather lonely, somewhat akin to realizing, well into my forties, that I was an orphan.

Ralph is a strange cat.  He does not purr, he snores when he's happy.  Celeste's purr-box works just fine, so it's not a familial trait.  In true brotherly fashion, he torments his sister.  This morning he attacked Celeste's tail.  Just as she would settle down, he'd pounce.  I remember Deb wailing, "He touched me for no good reason!"  Poor child, the only girl in a family of boys.

Yesterday I got the deck plants watered before barn chores.  Today I'd best get the front yard mowed first.  It gets darned hot in the barn if I run late.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Line

There is a line that should not be crossed, a line between acceptable and unacceptable, and some Thing is definitely on the wrong side.  While I've been keeping watch on the strawberry patch (all two berries), Thing, nameless only because I don't know what the thing is, has been pillaging my lettuce crop.  Is it not enough that I feed every two- and four-legged creature around, and do it voluntarily?  It seems wanting to keep a little of the fruits of my labors for myself is too much to ask.  Not too long ago I added six marigold plants to a pot on the front porch.  Stepping out yesterday, I glanced down and then did a double take.  Where there had been six, there were now three.  Three whole plants had been stolen.  I mean flowers, leaves, and roots.  Gone.  Thing is on a rampage and Farview is under siege.  I'm about ready to get out the blunderbuss in an attempt to hold the line, but how does one fight an invisible enemy?  That darned Thing.

Oh, for crying out loud!  Looking out the window, I just watched a blackbird fly down from the oak in the rear side yard to pick a leaf from a licorice mint plant and fly back.  I'm not saying it picked up a leaf from the ground; I mean it picked the leaf right off the plant!  Is nothing safe?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Pot O' Gold

Think I'm over the top when it comes to my Kids?  Best change the channel then, because I have nothing but honest good words to say today.

Deb and Craig arrived early in the morning and began unloading tools out of their truck.  They were on a mission!  After a little chitchat, they fired up two weed-eaters and headed in different directions.  Deb took on finishing the garden area and Craig went after the tall weeds bordering the driveway.  I was down in the barn when Clay and Larry drove up and were assigned their tasks by the foreman of the work crew.  By the time I hauled the milk buckets back up the hill, the transformation to the yards was spectacular!  The jungle under the oaks by the wood pile was laid to waste, all the garden plot was accessible, and on and on, and they weren't finished.  The hedge by the house is once more symmetrical, hillsides where turkeys and slithery things could hide in tall weeds are bare, and on and on.  Dave drove up in the midst of all this activity; prone to allergies, he was given a pass.  I should have prefaced all this by saying I had not asked for any of this; all the hard work was volunteered by the same Kids who ducked out of sight when I suggested weeding when they were little.  Clay and Craig?  My sons from other mothers?  They are my dear later-life boys.  Pete "joined in" with a phone call while we were taking a break, so my family day was complete.

I sat around like Lady Astor's pet horse at the party while Deb and Craig (who had brought all the fixings) prepared taco salad.  Plate after plate of that good meal disappeared down hungry mouths, followed by cheese cake!

Then it was time for fun, my kind of fun.  With music from the wineries drifting in on the breeze and 70s music playing in the living room, the poker game began.

I've not mentioned that I had been on a rather long losing streak.  All that changed yesterday (heh heh heh).  (And no one needs to point out that there are more white chips than blue; it's the winning, not the amount, that counts.)

And I was the winner all day in all ways.  Of course there were rainy days in our familial past; what family doesn't have them?  Our time together now is a rainbow, and my Kids are my pot of gold and I am a wealthy, wealthy woman.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


I pulled weeds, a lot of weeds, a mountain of weeds.  The entire front of the rock garden is now bare.  I like weeding (and isn't that a good thing, since I've got so much raw material?).  It is a grand time to let the mind go freewheeling and ponder the deep questions of life.  Why is it that ladybugs are prone to burning houses?  Who was watching the children anyway?  ("Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home!  Your house is on fire, your children will burn!")  Was there ever a time when dragonflies breathed fire?  How did pigs get such a bad rep when they are one of the cleanest, most fastidious animals?  I never mind the bending over, it's the straightening up that becomes difficult.  It became time for a stiff drink to prevent a stiff back.  That's called self-medicating.

Bess had the opportunity to fulfill her destiny last evening.  Two of the hobbits escaped while I was bent over in the hobbit house, putting the little kids to bed.  I'm not one to place blame or point a finger, but someone who shall remain nameless pushed the gate open with her nose just far enough to allow a getaway.  Bessie Anne lives to herd chickens.  I went after one (extricating myself from the dog run) and Bess took off in the high weeds after the other.  Pullets are fast, but Bess was like a heat-seeking missile.  Fortunately, she has a "soft" mouth and only pinned the chicken to the ground without hurting it in the least, and released it to me immediately.  Bess, an amalgam of many, many breeds, obviously has some bird dog in her genes.

It being Mother's Day, most of my Kids (Pete, as always, will be missed) are coming up today.  Taco salad is on the menu!  I baked a cookie recipe from the Kids' childhood...something like a Reese's peanut butter bar.  It seemed only fitting for a mother to do.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Another Mouth

Everywhere I turn, there's an open mouth waiting to be fed.  The hummers are slurping up two quarts of juice a day now and I've already gone through fifty pounds of sugar.  I often hear a soundtrack in my head while I go about my chores and "Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins plays daily, but tuppence a bag, my foot!  In addition to the mice, Gary, and barn birds, the ground squirrels are back in force.  This little twerp had to come right past my feet to get to the grain.

Yesterday being an "on" day (my on-again, off-again schedule), Bess and I went out to the garden to do that which I'd been putting off.  The Yukon Gold potatoes are in the barrel and exactly one-hundred eleven baby white onions are planted.  The label on the bag said there were eighty.  My back would have been glad to stop at eighty.  I pulled weeds from another barrel, albeit one of the smaller ones, in anticipation of another "on" day, whenever that might be.  My friend Joel must cringe when he goes past my grape vines (all two of them).  He so carefully trims and trains his and mine grow willy-nilly.  I'm just glad they grow!  Besides, the deer prune the vines on the outside of the fence.  These are seedless Red Globe grapes and it looks like there may even be enough for the birds to share with me.  The vines are covered with tiny baby grapes.  The Thompson Seedless is also doing well.  Maybe I'll get the Concord vine planted soon.  Or not.

Ralph is in training to be a mother's helper.  This water-loving cat would be so willing to wash dishes; he's fascinated by the soap bubbles and water swirling down the drain.  Cleaning the bathroom is not normally a laugh-out-loud chore, but when the cat and I are both scrubbing the toilet, well.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Circadian Cycles

Energy and ambition need to sync up with chores.  I seem to be on an every-other-day cycle; work one day, rest the next.  I missed a great opportunity by not planting yesterday.  It was grey and windy and I was disinclined to leave the comfort of the recliner and lap robe (Celeste).  Weather Guy had said there was no real chance of precipitation, so what was this wet stuff on my face when I put the kids to bed last night?  Hmmm?  It rained all night; would have been perfect to settle in the vegetables.  Oh well.  If I were really my mother's child, I'd be out there now in Wellies and slicker, poking holes and dropping spuds.  She always said it was best to plant, especially roses, in the rain.  I must have been dropped on her doorstep by passing travelers.

If my go, no-go cycle holds true, today should be a very productive day, raining or not.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


"The farmer on the hill, the farmer on the hill.  Heigh-Ho, the derry-o!  The farmer on the hill."  (With apologies to that other farmer down in the dell.)  When I was a kid, I thought I was singing "dairy-o;" it fit better with my idea of a farmer.
When I showed Craig my lettuce field, although suitably impressed, he said he wasn't ready to rush in for the vinaigrette just yet.  Hmmm.  I'm just glad the seeds finally started to sprout.

The yellow cherry tomato crop is just about ready (that might be a bit optimistic).  I see a salad in my future.

And for dessert, strawberry shortcake!  The squirrel hasn't told me the berries are ripe yet, so I'm trying to be patient.

It was a day for mowing (got the west field cut down) and laundry (all the bedding and all the socks), sunny with a nice breeze.  Maybe I'll get the potatoes and onions planted today.  It's tough to be the farmer and the farmer's wife at the same time.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Storm Clouds

There were dark storm clouds over the mountains yesterday and a pretty stiff wind blowing.  Only a spit of rain fell, however, and we'd hoped for more.  In the afternoon, lightning flashed and thunder rolled in the surrounding hills but the promised rain did not come.

There were storm clouds in the house, as well.  The lovey-dovey best friends got into a skirmish.  It reminded me of a line from one of my favorite old movies, Lion In Winter, in which Katharine Hepburn says, "What family doesn't have its ups and downs?"
It made me think of my own Kids when they were little and couldn't go outside to play.  "He [or she] started it!"  Me:  "I don't care who started it.  I'm going to finish it!"  Just as with the children, the fight didn't last long, no harm was done, and no one held a grudge.  In no time, Ralph and Celeste were snuggled up on the bed again.  That storm blew over, too.

I had thought to leave the watering to the rain, but no such luck.  Bess and I went out to attend to that in the afternoon.  Muscles still aching and joints still creaking, I hadn't minded being house-bound all day.  The wind died down and it was nice to be outside again.  Planting potatoes and onions could wait another day.

Dealing with the chicks in their low dog run is a bit of a challenge.  It's closer to four feet than five under the wire covering, and I'm bent over like a crone when I tend to those little kids, putting down food and water.  Craig called it The Hobbit House.  It's fortunate that the chicks run into their hut (the dog carrier) when I enter the pen, because in those cramped quarters it would be difficult to stop an escape. 

The sun is shining this morning, and peace reigns once more in the household.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Ralph and Celeste are best friends.  Almost without fail (the exception being when strangers are in the house), where you find one, you'll find the other.  Ralph is the much more outgoing and adventuresome of the two, but it is Celeste who warms my lap at night.
Shortly after I'd taken the photo of Ralph hugging Celeste, I turned around and there was Celeste washing BFF Ralph's face.  Another photo op too good to miss.

Camille and Honey stopped by last evening.  Honey has kitties of her own at home.  She realizes they come with "stickers" if she is not gentle and so knows how to treat cats with respect.  Celeste made herself scarce, but Ralph peeked around corners at the dog who is twice the size of Bessie Anne.  Honey performed the graceful dog bow that is the invitation to play, and Ralph responded by stretching out his front paws.  Then they went nose to nose for a closer inspection.  While they didn't race around, they agreed to be friends and so all three stayed together while Cam and I talked.  Celeste magically appeared even before our guests had made it out of the driveway.

I ran out of steam after pulling weeds in another barrel out in the garden, a deeper tub for the potatoes.  I'd really planned on planting the potatoes and onions yesterday, but my back said, "No, you won't."  Suddenly housework didn't seem so bad.

It was a good day.

Monday, May 5, 2014


 Gary is definitely on the dole.  (This would be his "selfie" if he just had thumbs.)  Acres of weeds and seeds and he comes in for breakfast nearly daily.

A little late with the evening feeding, I was surprised in the near-dark to find that Morning Mouse had brought a friend in for dinner; there were two in the bottom of the barrel.  MM jumped right into the bucket for a ride out, but Friend needed some convincing.

How do you know your strawberries are getting ripe?  You watch the ground squirrel who comes creepy-creeping around the deck to check on the plants for his share.  He won't take a bite until the berries are ready.  He's taken over for the blue jays who used to be my guide for ripeness.  (Haven't seen many blue jays lately, come to think of it.)

NASCAR was the perfect excuse for inertia yesterday (I was tired).  Good weather beckoned, however, so I hooked up the trailer to the little tractor and hauled a mountain of pulled weeds over to the burn pile in the afternoon.  It would have taken many trips with the wagon.  Bess and I took a trip to the feed store, where they'd gotten in a supply of seed potatoes and onion sets.  In addition to the grain I'd gone after, I came home with three pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes and ninety tiny white onions.  It's a start.  Before I can plant, though, I need to put more dirt in the big barrel Deb cleared.  I've planted potatoes directly into the ground in the past.  Gary's relatives and the ground squirrels dined well that year.  I've enough dependents, thank you.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Derby Day Winner

Of course we watched the Kentucky Derby.  What else would one expect of someone raised around Santa Anita Racetrack?  Of course we were pleased that California Chrome finished first, especially for those good old boys, the Dumbass Partners.  But I'm here to say that I was the big winner yesterday.

It's always a good day when Deb and Craig come up, but yesterday was stellar.  Getting out of their truck, they started unloading peony plants, four more big peony plants to go with the one I showed recently.  As if that weren't enough, they brought KFC for lunch!  Fast food might not seem like such a big deal for flatlanders, but since the nearest "fast food" is probably 25 miles away, I indulge maybe once or twice a year.  I savored every mouthful!  We watched the race and then went out to plant the peonies.  "We" is misleading, as Deb and Craig did the digging while I supervised.  I have a veritable forest of peonies now and can't wait until they all blossom in shades of white and pink.  And then "we" (I did help some) started to work.

A long time ago, these Kids gave me a Cecile Brunner rose, one of my favorites.  This beautiful climbing rose with romantic, tiny pink flowers has grown and even thrived in spite of weather conditions and my neglect.  In a wire cage to protect it from marauding deer, it was choked and nearly invisible behind a wall of weeds.  Finished with the peonies, Craig, followed by Deb, walked over to the rose bush and started pulling weeds.  Not one to be left out, I tagged along.  They worked a lot faster than I.  This is the "after" picture.
They then turned their attention to the mimosa tree.  This photo was taken after one side was already cleared, but gives a good idea of what the rose cage had looked like.  (Yes, I'm ashamed.)  Steve and I brought this tree, much smaller then, with us from the valley.  He'd started it from a seed, which he'd been told by experts was not possible.  They were wrong.  It comes back year after year, going dormant in the winter.  All weeds pulled, the tree is once again clean and lovely.
The recent heat wave had broken, but we were glad of the afternoon breeze after clearing the cages.  I was pretty sure it must be beer-thirty, but these Kids were as unstoppable as a boulder rolling downhill.  Craig started the weed-eater (one pull!) and headed toward the fenced garden.  Honest, that was on my To-Do list and I was going to get around to it, truly.  Vrooom, and he was off into the jungle.  As soon as he'd cleared around that big barrel to his right, Deb jumped in and started pulling weeds out of the tub.
My small part was to haul armloads of weeds over to the burn pile.  I scared Deb badly when I looked past her shoulder and said, "Oh, my God!"  She was sure something deadly was behind her and ready to attack.  It was a blossom on the pomegranate tree, a tree that for at least twelve years has never had a blossom.  Not just a blossom, but many blossoms and beginning to set fruit.  The small, bright-red dot at the left is a flower, nearly invisible as it is hidden in the overgrown wisteria vines.  I really thought that tree had died.

What had taken a few hours together would have taken me days alone.  What had seemed insurmountable has become possible, and I can't wait to plant something and get the other barrels cleared for a real vegetable garden.  Given this incentive, it would be unforgivable to waste all their work (although I might take a day to recover, as I hope they will).

To put the icing on the day, Deb and Craig, and hopefully the local boys, too, will be back next weekend.  How great is that?!

It was an indescribably good day.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

One Thing, Then Another

I may have mentioned that putting a tile floor in the laundry room was a two-day project that took three years.  If not, that's another story for another day.  However, yesterday was deja vu for me.  Confined to the small cage, the growing chicks were cramped and cranky, beginning to peck at each other and the peckee screeching.  It was time to relocate the kids.  Simple enough, but first (and that's the deja vu part), I had to clean up the wire-covered dog run and get the big dog-carrier sleeping room ready.  Before I could get to the dog carrier, I had to fire up the weed-eater and cut down the weed barrier to where I'd stored it under the barn.  There were a couple of waterers in the barn, but two of the three had sprung leaks and were useless.  The carrier needed a new waterproof cover.  (I'm sweating bullets and rain is predicted next week.)  Many trips to shed and barn later, it was finally time to carry the chick cage out and let the pullets free.  I should say that the dog run is only about four feet high, so I'm crouched over in there like Quasimodo.  It is such fun to watch chicks when they realize they've got room to jump, flutter, try their wings, scratch in the dirt, chase bugs under the leaves, and sample a taste of greenery.  Bessie Anne had to be cautioned about being not quite so enthusiastic about herding the little ones from outside the fence.  She was worried about "her" chicks.

The next chore was to clean the laundry room.  While doing that, I threw a load into the washer.  Before I could hang the clothes on the line, the side yard needed mowing.  (There's always one thing that must be done before the next thing can be accomplished.)  Okay, so I jumped on the mower.  Once the side yard was done, it seemed prudent to mow the back and back side yards.  Purple vetch has taken over a couple of areas.  It's a very pretty plant, but invasive.  The Baby blue-eyes are being replaced by lupine, so the mowing is still erratic as I cut around the wildflowers.

Mowing done, washing hung, chicks happy.  It was definitely beer-thirty.  While cooling off, I spoke with my son Pete, who laughingly accused me of promoting caprine porn by posting Inga's bare lady parts.  Yup.  At dusk, all creatures, great and small, were tucked in for the night.  Bess stayed on the porch for a while to watch the sun go down.  The house, for a change, was quiet.

It was a productive day, a good day.  Deb and Craig are coming up this morning and I see another good day in my future!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Let It Flow

"Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow!"  Oh, please, let it flow.  On any given day, under ordinary circumstances, I'm in and out of the barn in just about an hour with three milked, all five fed, and the stalls cleaned.  Inga spraddle-legged it into the milking room and our ordeal began.  Between the tight udder and lack of teats, plus the fact that it was painful for her so she kept lifting and kicking her feet and I was playing goalie with the bucket, it took the better part of an hour just to get Inga milked out.  Of course it had to be the hottest day so far this year and sweat was pouring faster than the milk was coming.  She and I breathed a sigh of relief when she went out the door, much, much lighter than she'd come in.  Inga was free; I still had Sheila and Tessie and the nonmilkers.  By the time Tess was on the stand my hands were cramping badly and, through no fault of hers, it took twice as long to empty her bag.  Once again, raising hamsters seemed a better choice.

Gary the Gopher had been absent for days while I was feeding that awful stuff.  The store had still been out of the chow I prefer, but obviously the goats are not the only ones pleased we're back to sweet cob.  Not able to see past the swollen udders, I'd not noticed Gary in action.  After the last girl left the room, it was evident from the perfectly round hole that he'd joined us for breakfast.

After the long morning, the most ambitious thing I did all day was water deck plants and turn on the sprinkler in the herb garden.  I thought about weeding, but my hands rebelled at that.  Celeste took advantage of an available lap to nap all afternoon.  Who was I to disturb a sleeping cat?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

War and Peace

Doggone that Inga!  She won the battle in which we both lose.  She ripped out of my hands to race past Sarah and Adam, the WWOOFers, and neither yelling nor sweet talk would get her in for milking.  Tessie tried the same tactics, but I was finally able to chase her down.  The girls get spooked when anyone but me is in the barn.  I have to explain to others that it will be a choreographed dance:  "Step into that room.  Shut the door.  (I switch out goats on the stand.)  Okay, you can come back in now."  Adam said it was like a magic show.  Both Adam and Sarah did well with the girls, Tessie and Sheila.  As predicted, the temperature began to soar and soon we were all sweating under the metal roof.

Back in the kitchen, we went on to Step Two in the cheese-making process and then put the curd to hang and drain.  Ralph has become a very social animal.  Unlike the goats, he loves company.  Celeste, not s'much.  She didn't come out until our guests had driven away.  Bessie Anne was her usual gracious self.  I'd made a loaf of Black Forest pumpernickel bread to go with the quiche for lunch.  The hummingbirds put on their show just outside the dining room window and quite fascinated Sarah.

Adam was originally from New York and Sarah from Canterbury, England.  They'd met while Adam was working in London, married, honeymooned in Brazil, and were spending a year traveling.  (Imagine!)  They seemed to really enjoy the WWOOF experience.  On leaving our area, they were going to visit friends in Sacramento before going on to Vietnam.  Listening to them was a real-life travelogue.  I had a truly lovely day with this young couple, and sent them off with good wishes, a pound of chevre and a dozen eggs.

Earle came for his milk and eggs, and then Camille came for a quick bite (leftover asparagus quiche) and a chat.  A cooling breeze came up in the afternoon.  It was a very busy day.  I put my feet up at last and listened to the quiet after putting the kids to bed.  Ahh, peace.

I will deal with Inga today.